Title: The King’s Affection (English title) / Affection / Yeonmo (literal title)
Main Cast: Park Eun-bin, Rowoon
Writer: Han Hee-jung (Clean with Passion for Now)
PD: Song Hyun-wook (Undercover)
Timeslot: Monday/Tuesday 21:30
Genre: Historical Romance
A crown princess during the Joseon Dynasty gives birth to a twin which made the king enraged because it’s considered taboo. With the coaxing of the crown princess’ ambitious father, the king ordered to kill the female baby. The crown princess faked her daughter’s death and sent her away from the palace.
Years after, the female child Dam-i enters the palace as a maid and crosses paths with her twin brother, Prince Lee Hwi. One day, they switched places in order for Prince Lee Hwi to go out of the palace. Unbeknownst to them, the crown princess’ father sent his henchman to kill Dam-i. Prince Lee Hwi has come back to the palace dead and to hide his passing, the crown princess orders Dam-i to live as Prince Lee Hwi.
Major trope: Gender-bender, hidden identity
We usually write our First Impression using the first two episodes of a K-drama but since the first two episodes of The King’s Affection only covered the back story of the series, I decided to write my First Impression after watching the fourth episode. And it was a good call since the main characters in their present age were only introduced in episodes 3 and 4. I also think that if one would recommend Yeonmo to their friends, they should also mention watching it up to the first four episodes to fully have a taste of what the series feels like.
Similar to a lot of sageuk dramas, The King’s Affection‘s back story is heavily detailed and complicated. Our two leads’ younger selves met and became each other’s first love only to get separated because of their family’s scheming. Sounds like your usual star-crossed lovers in period dramas right? The only difference The King’s Affection offers is its female lead, Dam-i (Park Eun-bin) had to live her life hiding her gender and pretending to be her brother Prince Lee Hwi. This part was where the drama caught my attention because it’s been a while since the last time I’ve watched a good heroine-disguised-as-a-man trope in period dramas. The last time I’ve watched one was Love in the Moonlight and even though that’s a good series, Sungkyungkwan Scandal remained my fave. Since previous dramas that used the trope became a hit, it’s inevitable to make them as a point of comparison for The King’s Affection. So I came with those as my standards but somehow, The King’s Affection is offering a different flavor.
For starters, Dam-i, disguised as Lee Hwi, isn’t a candy K-drama female lead at all. She’s grumpy and hotheaded and very comparable to spoiled crown princes out there. But since they exhausted their first two episodes to show Dam-i and Lee Hwi’s ill-fated reunion, I kind of understand why she grew up hating the world she’s in. Even though her mother left her to good people – Court Lady Kim (Baek Hyeon-joo) and Eunuch Hong (Ko Kyu-pil) – Dam-i still felt lonely in the palace since she pretty much had to push away everyone.
But not anymore. As the series’ main plot started churning, some characters are suddenly attempting to step closer to Dam-i.
First on the list is Jung Ji-un (Rowoon). Well, obviously he has a head start compared to others because he’s the boy Dam-i met as a young girl before she became trapped in Lee Hwi’s identity. But he’s also at the disadvantage as Ji-un is the son of Jung Seok-jo, the henchman of Lee Hwi’s maternal grandfather and left state councilor Han Ki-jae. He killed the real Lee Hwi in the past as well as Dam-i’s friend I-wol. Since Dam-i knew about it, she was certainly appalled seeing him again (well, appalled and disturbed as some lingering feelings probably resurfaced as well). In Ji-un’s point of view though, the grown-up Lee Hwi is the only connection he has to Dam-i. They kind of bicker at the start but that didn’t excite me as much, which was surprising because I usually love watching two obviously in love people bicker and banter. Anyway, I think what I would look forward to this pairing is how Ji-un becomes Dam-i’s reliable partner in cleansing the muddy palace. They seem to share the same views in life so I think it’s inevitable for them to partner against the evil and power-hungry schemers in the royal court (while eventually falling in love with each other, of course).
Another reliable person in Dam-i’s life is our dimpled second lead, Lee Hyun (Nam Hyun-su). For some reason, he seems to adore Dam-i. He even knew Dam-i’s love for things with flowers. He seems to accept Dam-i/Lee Hwi’s femininity without trouble. And I’m curious how his feelings would transform from platonic to romantic. I wouldn’t mind him finding out her identity later but I’m betting he and Ji-un would probably discover it at least in the first arc of the series. I’m hoping they would become sort of Dam-i’s “protector” inside the palace. Because it’s becoming harder for her to hide her identity as she becomes closer to taking the throne. Aside from Dam-i’s grandfather, Shim So-eun (Bae Yoon-kyung) looks like someone that would complicate Dam-i and Ji-un’s relationship. I haven’t seen much of her but she’s most probably become an annoying villain in the next episodes.
Her current assigned “protector” or swordsman, on the other hand, is suspicious. Kim Ga-on (Choi Byung-chan) was assigned by Queen Dowager (Lee Il-hwa) to protect the crown prince after the assassination attempt during the hunting trip. But his sword has the same trinket as the suspicious man in the woods during that time. He was injured too. I wonder if he was the real killer or he killed the killer. Either way, he’s definitely hiding something. Queen Dowager too is quite suspicious. I’m kinda sure she’s on Lee Hwi’s side but her plans are still vague. And her decision to put Kim Ga-on near Dam-i/Lee Hwi makes me think she’s spying on her grandchild. Nothing’s sure for now but it would be fun if the quiet swordsman too would become part of Dam-i/Lee Hwi’s people in the palace. Because it seems the rest are her enemies.
So far, The King’s Affection manage to get my attention and make me look forward to its next episodes. The first two weeks were worth watching but its hold on me could slip away if it goes to the path of a generic sageuk dramas. Let’s see if it will still be worthy of an exciting weekly watch or will it be more of a just-watch-it-after-it-aired filler show. I’m really hoping for the former as the young cast is a refreshing bunch to watch.
-I’m having a difficulty in believing Park Eun-bin is a man. Her facial feature is really soft and pretty. Good thing, some characters in the series are also addressing/pointing out how feminine she looks for a crown prince her age. Anyway, I think this would just be a matter of getting used to seeing her in this character.
-I started adoring Byung-chan in Live On and I’m really hoping his character here wouldn’t be evil.
-I like the series’ Korean title – Yeon-mo – better but oh well, I guess The King’s Affection is more SEO-friendly.
Image credit: KBS